Review Summary: Overall, Signs & Signifiers, like McPherson states in “Scratching Circles”, “is a sweet and savory treat”.
Doc finishes his speech about the importance of plutonium. “The vehicle’s time displacement is powered by plutonium which supplies the 1.21 gigawatts of power to the flux capacitor!” he anxiously shouts. “The flux capacitor is what makes time travel possible!”
Contemplatively, you (Marty) ask yourself, is time travel only possible through the use of Doc’s capacitor? Or can you travel back in time with something else. Something that is 5.5 x 5 in size. An album perhaps?
JD McPherson’s album Signs & Signifiers, released on April 17th, 2012 accomplishes what Doc spent his life trying to achieve. McPherson mentally, emotionally and physically transports you back in time, to the 1950’s, using only his rock and roll/rhythm and blues muse. A person from the 1950’s would refer to McPherson as a cool-cat. A greaser, clyde, or daddy-O that succeeds in producing beautiful sounds, if ya dig.
Yet, when someone in 2012 listens to McPherson, they are fixed in a trance of nostalgia. They recollect thoughts about the innovative years of the 50’s. The years when Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower were the presidents of the United States, the years when the Color TV was introduced, segregation was ruled illegal, and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the Montgomery City bus.
Pioneered by Alan Freed, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Little Richard, the 1950’s were a period of soulful rhythm and blues and swinging rock and roll. The electric guitar was popularized, thanks to Paul, and many artists began experimenting with it. Sounds were created, solos were written, and music was on a fast track towards innovation.
JD McPherson’s Signs & Signifiers encapsulates the sounds and emotions of the 1950’s, with the help of Jimmy Sutton on the bass, and Alex Hall on the drums, piano, and organ. With a 2012 twist, songs such as “Fire Bug”, “North Side Gal”, and “B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R” become immediate classics. McPherson’s boogie-woogie/retro voice and his nostalgic guitar-playing is nothing short of commendable. His vocals are a combination of rock, pop, and country mixed with the various African-American styles of the 50’s.
Additionally, Jimmy Sutton and Alex Hall are vitally important assets on Signs & Signifiers. Arranged, on “I Can’t Complain”, Jimmy Sutton’s bass layers over Hall’s spunky beat with exactitude. “Wolf Teeth” displays just how important a bass guitar can be. Sutton is the sole foundation of this song and without him “Wolf Teeth’s” rock and roll-esq concept would crumble.
“Dimes For Nickles” is yet another classic that transports you back to the 1950’s. With lyrics still relatable in 2012, McPherson sings, “It’s a lot of hard work to keep a satisfied women”, and “My golden years keep slipping out of view”. Singing about renowned topics that people can empathize with, proves to the listener that the spirit of rock and roll has never died. It has simply lain dormant.
Overall, Signs & Signifiers, like McPherson states in “Scratching Circles”, “is a sweet and savory treat”. This album has left critics and fans speechless. Named as “an artist you should know”, JD McPherson would make Doc proud.
To travel back in time, you don’t need to ward off Libyan terrorists, you don’t need to discover an over abundance of plutonium, and you don’t need locate a Geissler style-tube arranged in a “Y” configuration. Instead, to travel back in time, drive to your local diner, order a tall vanilla milkshake (cherry on-top is preferred), and listen to JD McPherson’s Signs & Signifiers. Grab your Lorraine, knock out your Biff, and be prepared for the next artist, whose flux capacitor, can redefine the movement of our modern music.
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